Just like everyone else who watched the big event on Aug. 21, you probably have a few pairs of eclipse glasses sitting around from this week's total solar eclipse. And now that the sun is shining bright again, you really don't have much use for them anymore, right? So, what the heck are you supposed to do with all of those glasses? And there are a lot of eclipse glasses.
For instance, specialty glasses maker American Paper Optics said in a 2016 statement that its goal was to produce 100 million pairs of the glasses in time for the Aug. 21 eclipse — and it's just one of 15 companies on the American Astronomical Society's list of reputable eclipse glasses vendors. So, imagine how many were produced. If all of them were just trashed, that's a lot of unnecessary waste going to the landfills.
There actually are several ways you can put these glasses to better use than simply tossing them in the trash. For one, there's another total solar eclipse coming to the U.S. on April 8, 2024, so if nothing else, you could just keep them. NASA says if you have the ISO-approved glasses and the lenses aren't scratched or torn, you can use them indefinitely, so yours will be good in another six or so years.
However, many glasses do expire if they're not ISO compliant, so be sure to check yours for an expiration date. "Some glasses/viewers are printed with warnings stating that you shouldn't look through them for more than 3 minutes at a time and that you should discard them if they are more than 3 years old," NASA said in a statement. "Such warnings are outdated and do not apply to eclipse viewers compliant with the ISO 12312-2 standard adopted in 2015."
There's also another total solar eclipse even before 2024. This eclipse will be on July 2, 2019, and will be visible in the southern Pacific Ocean, east of New Zealand, the Coquimbo Region in Chile and finally Argentina, with totality in some areas lasting 4 minutes and 32 seconds.
Astronomers Without Borders, an organization dedicated to sharing its passion of astronomy with others, is organizing a drive to collect used eclipse glasses from Americans that it will distribute to children in South America and Asia who will watch this 2019 eclipse. "We will announce details soon after the eclipse. We have corporate partners who will be receiving and processing them for us," the organization said in a statement on its website, warning readers not to send glasses to Astronomers Without Borders.
And if none of these sound like good options to you, at the very least, just recycle the darn things. They're just made of cardboard and black polymer so tear out the lenses and toss the frames in with your recycling and be done with it.